Pandemic haircuts and pandemic cooking are just some ways people have been dealing with anxieties and boredom during life under lockdown. While some amateur attempts at home baking may turn out comically tragic, there are also people who are totally nailing it.
One of these talented people is Devoney Scarfe, a home baker in New Zealand who has been creating pie art masterpieces since the nationwide lockdown started on March 26.
Devoney, who previously owned a bespoke cake business, is taking pandemic baking to a whole new level.
Her pies consist of pop culture references, expletive-laden crusts, and therapeutic colour gradients — all exquisite reflections of how she’s feeling during isolation.
Devoney spoke to VICE about how she started baking pies, the inspiration behind her work, and the story behind her most meme-worthy pie yet.
VICE: Hi Devoney! How did you get into baking pies?
Devoney: My pie-making is definitely a symptom of lockdown. About a week before New Zealand went into isolation, I made one pie. It looked and tasted good but the pastry was still a bit raw, so I made it my mission to work out how to blind bake the perfect crust. It kind of spiralled from there. I’m a bit of a chronic maker of things and had to balance that with the practicalities of feeding my family who were, all of a sudden, all at home and always hungry. Pies happened!
How are you feeling about the lockdown situation?
We have had a pretty strict lockdown here. It feels quite safe at the moment as all the rules seem to be working for now. But I do have a pre-existing health condition which puts me in the high-risk camp. That makes me a bit nervous.
In some ways, I’ve enjoyed taking life at a slower pace. I’ve really enjoyed making all the pies, though there have been a few chunky days in the mix too.
Pie making has been a surprisingly great way for me to channel my frustrations, boredom, and creativity. It has provided a distraction and dinner for the family all in one!
Where do you get your pie art inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from popular culture, mainly. And also how I’m feeling. Swearing through the medium of baking is surprisingly cathartic.
Do all the pies taste as good as they look?
I have had a few hits and misses, to be honest. I don’t follow a recipe for my fillings; I like making up recipes. It adds to the excitement, but also means some are amazing and others are just OK. All have been edible though. The sweet pies are always a hit with the family, everything tastes good with a bit of sugar.
Out of all the pies that you've made, which one’s your favourite?
The Octopie was my favourite taste-wise. I took the flavours for this one from spanakopita. Spinach, feta, parmesan, mint, and spring onion. It was delicious!
I especially like the Homer Simpson meme pie that you’ve baked — it's hilarious but also strangely soothing to look at. What's the story behind it?
This came about one day in lockdown when I wasn't at my best. I was feeling grumpy and overwhelmed and took it out on my husband. He kind of backed out of the room like Homer backing into the hedge. It made me laugh. I made a pie about it. I call it my apielogy.
How has the reception been to your baked art?
I’ve had a really nice reception to my pies. Baking is ingrained in Kiwi culture, so I guess I’ve tapped into that a bit. We are also a big pie-eating nation. You can find a mince and cheese pie at any gas station at any hour here in New Zealand.
I've reconnected with old friends and made some new ones too, through my pies. It’s been a nice way to stay connected during isolation.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.